We had a beautiful, sunny afternoon free last week so I drove the girls over to the playground.
The playground was a little crowded.
This was the first time we’d been to one since last fall. I always get a little nervous when I’m on my own because it is difficult keeping up with both girls. Brandon, in fact, does not like me to take them to parks by myself. What if Rhema runs away or darts into the street? What if you can’t give Hope the attention she needs?
Here we go, I thought.
Rhema headed straight into the middle of the playground. I saw her look over to the swings, which were all occupied by older girls. Instantly, she dropped to the ground and began crying in a high-pitched voice.
I knelt beside her and spoke to her softly.
Finally, she stood to her feet. She looked around quickly, frantically. She ran to the edge of the playground, wailing all the way. Then she began to run in circles around the playground. As she ran, she calmed herself, focusing on her hands bouncing in the air.
The whole time we were there, that’s what she did. Run in circles around the playground. Kids jumped, climbed, squealed and played hide and seek. And Rhema ran in circles, never able to come in and enjoy the swings and slides.
A few times I tried to interrupt her, re-direct her. I grabbed her hands, I tickled her, tried to coax her over to a climbing structure. But she brushed me off and stuck to the predictable – running laps around the playground.
She’s done this before. Once, before we knew her diagnosis, my sister, mother and I took her to a wading pool. “She’ll LOVE it. She loves the water,” my mother had said. But somehow it was too overwhelming and Rhema never put toe to water. Instead, she ran in circles.
Oh, my girl. How much of her life is spent on the periphery. As I suspect for many children with special needs, she seems so close yet so far away. She wants to take part, she wants to play and have fun. I know it.
But some days, it’s just beyond her reach. It’s just too much. It’s just too hard.
But she’ll keep trying, she’ll keep coming back.
Before long she will come in from the edges, she’ll play and jump and climb and swing and soar.
She’ll get it.
And again I will be inspired by the strength, resilience and resourcefulness I see in these children to make it in the world.